"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Maronites

The Maronites are admittedly a singular Church in the Eastern Christian world. Some say they are the most Latinized of the Oriental Catholic Churches. Others have suggested they are crypto-Monophysites. They themselves claim to be the one Eastern Church never to have been out of communion with the bishop of Rome. In the last thirty years, they have played no small role in the numerous conflicts in, or involving, Lebanon, including the Lebanese Civil War.

For all that, they have not been well studied to date. The only other recent study of the Maronites was, as I remarked elsewhere, rather severely marred by the tendentiousness of the author and his pronounced dislike for his subject. I was gratified therefore to see that Cistercian Publications, which just sent me their new catalogue, has a forthcoming study of Maronite realities:

Paul Naaman, The Maronites: The Origins of an Antiochene Church (Cistercian Studies) (Liturgical Press, 2011), 216pp. )

The publisher provides us the following descriptive overview:
The Maronite Church is one of twenty-two Eastern Catholic Churches in communion with the Pope of Rome. Her patriarch is in Lebanon. Forty-three bishops and approximately five million faithful make up her presence throughout the world.

The story of Maron, a fifth-century hermit-priest, and the community gathered around him, later called the Maronites, tells another fascinating story of the monastic and missionary movements of the Church. Maron’s story takes place in the context of Syrian monasticism, which was a combination of both solitary and communal life, and is a narrative of Christians of the Middle East as they navigated the rough seas of political divisions and ecclesiastical controversies from the fourth to the ninth centuries.

Abbot Paul Naaman, a Maronite scholar and former Superior General of the Order of Lebanese Maronite Monks, wisely places the study of the origins of the Maronite Church squarely in the midst of the history of the Church. His book, The Maronites: The Origins of an Antiochene Church, published during the sixteenth centenary of Maron’s death, offers plausible insights into her formation and early development, grounding the Maronite Church in her Catholic, Antiochian, Syriac, and monastic roots.
Look for this book to be reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies.

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